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What are Hair Loss?

Partial or complete alopecia (or hair loss) is commonly seen in dogs and can be due to a variety of conditions including skin infections, allergies, and endocrine disorders. Dogs of any age or breed can experience hair loss. The underlying cause can range from mild to serious in severity, so it is important to report hair loss to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Hair loss (alopecia) is a common disorder in dogs which causes the animal to have partial or complete hair loss. Dogs can be affected in a number of ways, involving their endocrine system, lymphatic system, immune system, and skin.

Hair Loss Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,400

Symptoms of Hair Loss in Dogs

Dog hair loss is an obvious condition and can occur at any age, in any breed, and anywhere on the body. A variety of patterns and symptoms may develop depending on the underlying cause:

  • Overall thinning of the hair
  • Hair loss around eyes and mouth
  • Patches of complete hair loss
  • Symmetrical patterns of hair loss in the same place on both sides of the body (often congenital)
  • Foul odor
  • Itchiness
  • Black or dark grey skin under hair loss
  • Dry, scaly skin around area of hair loss
  • Red, inflamed skin around area of hair loss
  • Oozing moisture or bleeding around area of hair loss (typically a secondary condition)
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Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs

Some possible causes for dog hair loss include:

  • Pressure sores
  • Friction (from a collar, for example)
  • Nervous chewing or licking
  • Trauma and/or scarring
  • Post-surgical clipping
  • Infection (bacterial, yeast or fungal)
  • Ringworm (fungal infection)
  • Allergies (fleas, food, environmental, contact)
  • Mites (Mange)
  • Abnormality in growth of the hair shaft
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Sex hormone imbalance
  • Chemotherapy
  • Skin cancer
  • Genetics (certain breeds develop hair loss in adulthood on ears, chest, thighs)
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Diagnosis of Hair Loss in Dogs

If your pet is experiencing hair loss, they should be examined by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and treat the condition. Diagnosis is based on the onset of symptoms, pattern of hair loss, skin condition around hair loss and whether the pet is itching or uncomfortable.

  • Pattern of hair loss

    - Generalized hair loss could be a sign of mange or bacterial infection. Patches of hair loss could indicate conditions like ringworm, bacterial infection, mites, or mange. Hair loss in the rump and tail base area is usually flea allergy. Hair loss from the paws and face is usually environmental allergies (atopy). Symmetrical hair loss could be a sign of adrenal gland disorder, thyroid disorder, or abnormal sex hormone levels (endocrine disorders).

  • Blood profile

    - Blood testing will allow detection of immune system conditions, hormone abnormalities, thyroid disorder, Cushing’s disease, and diabetes.

  • Biopsy

    – If skin cancer or a tumor is present, or in persistent unresponsive skin lesions, the veterinarian may want to send a sample of the affected area to the laboratory to determine diagnosis and treatment.

  • Skin impression smears

    – Pressing a microscopic slide on the affected area and analyzing it can show the presence of bacteria or yeast.

  • Skin scraping

    – Scraping the skin with a blade to gather hair follicles onto a slide can help detect the presence of mange mites.

  • Luminescence

    – Some ringworm will glow a fluorescent green-yellow under ultraviolet light.

  • Allergen elimination trials

    – Feeding a hypoallergenic diet, treating fleas, or eliminating the use of certain shampoos or drugs may reveal an allergy the pet has.

  • Allergy testing

    - Skin and/or blood tests can narrow down the list of potential allergens.

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Treatment of Hair Loss in Dogs

Depending on the diagnosis, a variety of treatments are available for dog hair loss.

  1. Antibiotics

    (oral or topical) will treat bacterial infections.

  2. Antifungals

    (oral or topical) can treat yeast and ringworm infections.

  3. Steroids

    may be required to treat certain skin conditions.

  4. Immunosuppressive Drugs or Anti-cytokine Drugs

    may be needed for environmental allergy (Atopy) control. Often life long treatment is needed.

  5. Immunotherapy

    may be needed orally or by injection for allergy desensitization.

  6. Behavioral medications

    can treat nervous chewing or licking.

  7. Medicated shampoos

    or dips can treat cases of mange.

  8. Hypoallergenic diets

    will often solve hair loss due to food allergies. Allergies to foods take some time to define. The veterinarian will recommend a prescription or over the counter hypoallergenic diet and explain the proper method of transitioning to the new diet.

  9. Monthly flea preventative

    can clear up hair loss associated with flea allergies

  10. Thyroid medication and hormone therapy

    can reverse hair loss in hormonal and endocrine disorders.

  11. Vitamin E, Vitamin A and fish oil supplements

    may be recommended for pets with certain conditions or a predisposition to dry skin or skin infections.

  12. An Elizabethan collar

    (e-collar or cone) may be required to prevent your pet from licking at or itching the affected site until healed.

  13. Surgery

    may be required to remove sections of skin cancer or tumors. Neutering or spaying your pet may be required for sex-hormone disorders.

Hair loss due to chemotherapy normally clears when chemotherapy sessions are completed. Hair loss may be permanent when caused by genetics, post-surgical clipping, scarring, callouses or pressure sores. Most hair loss, when treated properly, will resolve. Recurrent skin conditions may require ongoing treatment.

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Recovery of Hair Loss in Dogs

Hair loss may need to be treated more than once, depending on your pet’s predisposition to skin infections. Always administer treatment according to the veterinarian’s instructions. Follow up appointments may be necessary to ensure the problem is resolving and any infection is clearing. Monitor your pet’s skin and hair regrowth and communicate any changes or concerns to the veterinarian so they can adjust treatment accordingly.

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Hair Loss Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,400

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Hair Loss Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Golden Retriever

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Two Months

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Unknown severity

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Hair Loss Around Eyes

Hair loss around eyes

July 15, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Puppies can be affected by bacterial infections or parasites like Demodex. It would be best to have your puppy seen by a veterinarian, as they can look at the dog's skin, see what might be going on, and get medication so that your puppy is able to get back to normal quickly. I hope that all goes well.

July 15, 2020

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Blue Pit Bull

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3yrs

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Unknown severity

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Redness,,,Tough Scaley Sknon Sides Hair Loss Bumps An Flaky Skin Loss Appetite Stay In Bed Has Flea Alergy

What do I do for my 3yr old pit we go just came down with these symptoms after I moved him to Ms,where there was sand everywhere an he got infested with fleas

July 14, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Flea control will be essential for him, and oral forms help more than topical or OTC collars with flea allergies. He may need antibiotics or medication to help with his itching until his flea allergies are back under control, as well. It would be best to have a veterinarian examine him, see what medications he needs to get his skin healthy again, and prescribe an oral flea medication for him. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 14, 2020

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Cricket

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Mutt

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24 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss

My two year old mixed breed pup has been losing hair since the end of winter. It began on her legs and is moving up and is now on her chest and shoulders. It is even and parallel-no hot spots or random areas There remains a thin covering of a few hairs and revealed underneath is a spotted skin (which I assume is normal). She doesn't exhibit any unusual scratching or licking (the average quick scratch now and then). The vet tested her thyroid(normal) and she is on a monthly flea treatment. We do not know what breeds she is made of so I'm not sure if this is breed specific. Shes not in any pain and it seems purely cosmetic but still I worry. What should my vet do, if anything?

Sept. 16, 2018

Cricket's Owner

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Sunny

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Great Pyrenees

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Hair Loss

My dog was rescued after being found as a young 2-3 month old pup. He had many issues when he was first found, and was in isolation most of his life until he was rescued by me at 11 months old, and has been the only dog in our household since his rescue. He is a 9 y.o. mix (Great Pyrenees, Collie, Shetland Sheepdog – verified by DNA testing) who has been suffering from significant hair loss around his neck, back legs, tail, side around rib cage, and now behind his left ear. This began approximately three (3) years ago, and was noticed after he was shaved for the summer for the 3rd or 4th time of his life. We do not believe this has anything to do with him being shaved, it was just noticed that his hair wasn't growing back after the shave three (3) summers ago. Thyroid condition also discovered 3/4+ years ago, and he is on medication for his thyroid (0.8 Thyro-Tabs Canine [levothyroxine sodium tablets] twice per day). We have tried diet changes, raw food, no grains, etc., and tried numerous things recommended by different veterinarians, including a dermatologist, a naturopath, a homeopath, and others. Upon adoption and for many years, he had a thick beautiful hair all over. It is heartbreaking to see him so patchy, with bald spots all over. He is a mellow dog, doesn’t enjoy other dogs so much, sleeps a lot, likes to roam around our large property in Texas, doesn’t seem to be itchy or uncomfortable in anyway.

Aug. 28, 2018

Sunny's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without seeing Sunny, I don't have any way to comment on the hair loss, other than to wonder if his thyroid levels have been checked since you started him on medications for that, as thyroid disease can greatly affect skin condition. Demodex and other skin problems can also be exacerbated by a low thyroid.

Aug. 28, 2018

Thank you for your response. His thyroid seems to be well controlled with the medication. All tests are coming back normal for everything. That is why this is so troubling. We would love to see a specialist, but we have exhausted all options in our local area, this is why we are reaching out.

Aug. 29, 2018

Sunny's Owner

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Nova

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Labrador Retriever

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Scratching And Biting

My lab had flea allergies as a pup, was treated and has been fine for the last year. About a month ago, she started losing hair by her hind legs, and belly. I started washing her every other day. However, the hair loss is spreading symmetrically on both sides of her belly and is now rising up towards her back. She does scratch, but off and on. She is on grain free duck and potato diet with fish oil supplements. She is also losing hair on her neck. She never had fluffy ears like her brother - very sparse ear hair. Behaviorally, she is great. Very active and loving. She is on flea pills and has been all her life. She needs help!!!

Aug. 18, 2018

Nova's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Symmetrical hair loss is not normally associated with allergies, we generally see symmetrical hair loss with hormonal conditions; if Nova is losing a lot of hair symmetrically you should check in with your Veterinarian to look for hormonal conditions (Cushing’s etc…) to be on the safe side. You should also review the allergies and diet with your Veterinarian, allergy testing may also be useful. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 19, 2018

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Ava

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Chihuahua

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss

My dog's neck and in front of her ears are bald. She has absolutely no hair on those areas; just bare skin. She is shedding, but those are the only bald areas that she has. She doesn't have any other symptoms, besides scratching herself. When I deflea her she only has a couple of fleas. Her hair is very short and thin; which it has always been that way since she was born. I am guessing that beings she has that type of hair, may be why she doesn't have a whole lot of fleas. I am not quite sure what is causing the shedding, bald spots and itching. She has had this problem for a couple of months now.

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jazzie

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Labrador Retriever

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss

My 8 yrs old black lab is having severe hair fall, and the area where we hold the hair gets detached from the body. the hair looks like dry, and not strong. what could be the reason? so far I have changed her food to no wheat or grain in it and give her oatmeal baths and rub her down with coconut oil to try and help her from losing her hair she started losing it after she had her litter of puppies but it started to get really bad this last year in half, she is drinking a lot and going to the bathroom more too please can someone help me figure it out

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Smokey

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Texas Heeler

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7 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss, Swollen Toes

have a young puppy, has been to the veterinarian who said the loss was due to amniotic fluid bacterial infection,(not mange) it is on his foot and a patch on the front leg. He said epsom salt would help and has not....I have started using a triple antibiotic cream. seems to have helped some what...any other suggestions?

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Annabelle

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Golden Retriever

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss

My sister in law has a golden retriever that is experiencing extreme hair loss (comes out by the hand full). The hair loss seems more prevalent on her sides. She recently had surgery on her hind leg for a torn ligament. This hair is growing back extremely slow and we have noticed her hair did not grow back in after being spayed. We own a golden as well and she does not even come close to this massive hair loss (hers seems normal). Annabelle (my sister in laws dog) seems to be loosing it on her sides. She said she is being told it is hair blow out. Please help!!!

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Lulu

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Dachound

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Streaks Of Hair Loss Along Spine

Hello my two year old wiener dog developed a few crusty places on her back. After a few days her hair started falling out and now she has a few streaks along her spine from front to back. We can tell it itches and they have slight odd smell . One streak has a red place on it and looks more like a sore.

Hair Loss Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,400

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